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Arts & Culture

A Monster Mash, Frankly

FrankenReads Celebrates Novel’s 200th Anniversary on Campus, Around the World

By Sala Levin ’10


Illustration by Joshua Harless

Illustration by Joshua Harless

Have you always had the nagging suspicion that what your Halloween celebrations lacked was a little British romanticism? If so, FrankenReads—an international celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of the ur-monster story, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”—is here to help.

During the week of Halloween, and peaking on the 31st, participants in 46 countries will gather to stage full—or, for the less hardy, partial—readings of the book, screen film adaptations, host costume contests, discuss the novel and its impact in popular culture, and even build their own monsters. The event is spearheaded by the Keats-Shelley Association of America and its president, UMD English Professor Neil Fraistat.

The “Frankenstein” frenzy was inspired by Bloomsday, the global celebration of all things James Joyce held annually on June 16, the day his novel “Ulysses” takes place. Funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities helped take FrankenReads around the world, including a full reading of the novel at the Library of Congress featuring Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, pro wrestler-turned-actor John Cena, “Goosebumps” author R.L. Stine and historical mystery author Louis Bayard.

On campus, a full reading of the book will start at 9 a.m. tomorrow at McKeldin Library, culminating in a finale at 6 p.m. featuring a costume contest, a prize ceremony for “Frankenstein”-inspired short stories and FrankenTerps ice cream. The flavor concocted for The Dairy is a mulled wine ice cream mixed with crumbles of the European spice cookie pfeffernusse—and tinted green, of course.

FrankenReads’ popularity speaks to “the power of the story culturally to speak to our own moment, and to its persistence in popular culture generated in many different forms,” said Fraistat. The novel—in which scientist Victor Frankenstein creates a sentient being out of inanimate matter—touches on still-relevant questions of what it means to be human and the experiences of a cultural outsider, Fraistat said.

He hopes that FrankenReads will leave “Frankenstein” neophytes with a sense of “the pleasure of the story,” he said. “This is a story that’s been shared around the world and has something to say to people all around the world.”

The Library of Congress reading will be available for livestreaming on its YouTube channel.    

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College of Arts and Humanities

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